Performance Max (PMax) launched at Google Marketing Live (GML) 2021 and has received a mixed response. Some see great results and others struggle with the mixed-bag performance caused by lack of control.
Understanding whether PMax will serve your account well comes down to these core criteria:
While there isn’t a definitive yes or no, these questions can help you forecast PMax’s success for your brand. Before we dive into those questions, let’s do a brief overview of this campaign type.
Performance Max campaigns cover all Google Ads types (except Local Service Ads), allocating budget and creative where the algorithm thinks it can do the most good for your marketing objectives. This means that instead of running Search, Display, Video, Discover, Local, or Shopping campaigns separately, you have a single campaign/budget covering all of those channels.
Currently, exclusions require you to work with your Google rep, which means the out-of-the-box campaign doesn’t allow for negative keywords.
These campaigns require text and visual creative. If you don’t supply your own creative (images and videos) Google will create them for you. These creatives typically don’t perform as well so it’s important you have visual creatives ready.
Making the right decision on whether or not to run a Performance Max campaign comes down to three things: budget, existing campaigns, and creative.
All ad channels have different auction prices. Depending on your budget, you may or may not be able to lean into a channel that would serve you well. As a general rule of thumb, your budgets should allow for at least one qualified lead or sale per day. If your budget can’t support enough clicks to lead to that, you’ll be left with the following options:
For constrained budgets, visually-oriented placements like display and video are typically cheaper than spots on the SERP (search engine result page). By using PMax, smaller budgets can snag bargain placements that would otherwise not be achievable.
Bigger budgets can succeed with PMax as well, but PMax can become a bit of a black box for budget allocation, and you also may need to pause your other channels.
All Google Ads channels can empower each other. Paid search can only pick up transactional traffic if your prospects know to search for what you offer. Brand sentiment alone cannot drive sales if your beloved followers can’t find you. Investing in PMax will ensure your bases are covered, but that also means leaving existing campaigns behind.
If your search campaigns are doing well, layering in PMax could potentially steal traffic. Additionally, if you’re running branded campaigns to protect your brand (and your other campaigns from false positives), PMax might duplicate those efforts.
However, if you’re struggling to afford the auction prices for Google Search, PMax can be a hero.
The biggest risk for cannibalization is YouTube. Youtube campaigns allow for much more control over the pacing of creative and targeting. If your Youtube campaigns are performing, absolutely consider holding on PMax unless all other channels are struggling.
PMax is often referred to as a black box campaign because there isn’t as much data on the specific queries or placements. However, this encourages advertisers to focus on message mapping creative. Honing the audience signals and creative assets matters more for optimizing your Performance Max campaigns than negative keywords and placements.
With that in mind, it’s vital that any PMax campaigns have visual creative assets. This includes:
If you’re not able to provide all the creative, Performance Max might not convert as well as standalone campaigns. You can learn more things to know before you start a Performance Max campaign here.
Google Ads Performance Max campaigns can be a powerful profit generator for brands with rich visual creative and a clear understanding of who their target market is. There is no concrete answer on whether PMax will work for your brand—it’s not without its pros, cons, and polarized perspectives.
The best way to know is to test while ensuring you’re not running redundant campaigns. Consider pausing standalone campaigns while running PMax so there’s no cannibalization of budget.
If PMax outperforms the standalone campaigns, you can free yourself from micromanaging lots of campaigns, focusing on creative and audiences. Should PMax underperform, you’ll still have your standalone campaigns and won’t have the pressure to come up with creative for channels you didn’t intend to run.
Navah Hopkins is a Top 25 PPC Expert and international speaker who has been in the digital marketing industry since 2008. She specializes in paid media strategy and helping brands build relationships with profitable partners and customers.
She’s a cofounding member of the Paid Search Association, a group dedicated to empowering the next generation of PPC practitioners, and she continues to give back by sharing lessons learned at conferences and local universities, and in blogs and webinars for SEJ, SEL, Semrush, and WordStream.
See other posts by Navah Hopkins
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